There is a personality trait (known as “autonomy”) that has some people wanting the freedom to do and say what they want in the sale and others wanting to know exactly what to say. The former desire the right to reinvent the wheel with every opportunity and the latter want scripts.
Neither should get what they want. Instead, your job is to arm them with frameworks.
High and Low Autonomy
Understanding that autonomy is the term used when measuring a person’s need for the freedom to do things however they want on the one end (high autonomy), and their need for systems and routine on the other (low autonomy), we can see why creative people tend to have high autonomy scores. They desire the freedom to think about the challenge differently every time because creativity is the ability to bring a novel perspective to a situation. 1
Watch a photographer evaluate a scene—like a building, a grove of trees or a couple having a conversation. The amateur sees the scene, points and shoots. The pro walks around looking for exactly the right angle. They know that this is not one scene, one photo. It is an untold number of scenes and photos depending on where they are standing—depending on their perspective. The pro spends a lot more time finding and setting up the shot than does the amateur. They spend much of their life looking for a better perspective on whatever they are considering. Their need to move around and find the novel perspective exists in non-physical realms of intellectual problem solving, too, including in a sale. The high autonomy salesperson wants to try out new language and a new approach with every prospect. The last thing they want is to be hemmed in with scripted language.
The low autonomy salesperson, on the other hand, wants visibility into the future to reduce uncertainty and eliminate unknowns. They prefer to converge on the right thing to say—the thing they will say every time with little variability. They want a script. There are plenty of low autonomy salespeople in the world, as evidenced by the popularity of my posts that model sales language, such as I Wish I’d Said That! and Seven Words You Can’t Say in Business Development.
It’s not difficult to see why neither high autonomy salespeople nor low autonomy salespeople should get what they want. Total freedom is messy, inefficient and leaves too much to the chance of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Scripted language makes the salesperson sound, well, scripted—the last thing you want in a consultative sale. So if nobody should get what they want on this autonomy spectrum, how do you support your people doing the selling?
The answer is frameworks, which exist in the middle between total freedom and prescribed language, supporting those who desire either. Make no mistake: while frameworks exist in the middle they are by no means a compromise. Everyone—regardless of where they are on the autonomy spectrum—will benefit from being armed with frameworks.
The Four Conversations™ : A Framework-Driven Model
At Win Without Pitching we use a model that views the sale as a series of four conversations, each with its own objective and its own framework for navigating to that objective.2
In this model the objective is the destination—the place you want your salesperson to end up at the end of the conversation. The framework is their guide for getting them there. You might also think of the framework as the map. But the map shows multiple routes and the salesperson has the discretion to get to the destination how they see fit. They are free to use their intuition to navigate within the map. They are free to use certain set pieces—statements or questions that they might reuse often. There is no language that anyone must use, beyond a brief positioning statement that ensures everyone in the firm is making the same succinct claim of expertise. But there are lots of questions and other set pieces that people are free to use.
Nobody gets exactly what they’ve asked for, but they get what they need to become a better salesperson.
A Qualifying Framework
Let’s take the qualifying conversation as an example. It’s the vetting conversation where the objective is to qualify the lead to see if an opportunity exists and determine the next step. A common framework for navigating to this conversation is known as BANT, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe. Each firm and even individual salespeople will have a series of questions that they might ask to get the information they need in each of the four BANT quadrants.
Vetting the lead is the destination (to qualify them in or out). BANT is the framework for navigating to that destination. The salesperson is free to choose from a selection of questions—provided to them, conceived by them or a combination of both—to get to the destination.
- Objective = Destination
- Framework = Guide or Map
- Question Sets = Numerous Possible Routes
This is the combination that supports those who think they need scripts and reins in those who think they need to eschew routine.
Complete Your Set of Frameworks
Frameworks are useful throughout the arc of the sale. You should have frameworks for how you and your people:
- Introduce and speak about the firm
- Solicit referrals and other forms of lead generation
- Qualify leads
- Set price and write proposals
- Close the sale
None of these areas require scripts. None of them should allow total freedom to the individual. Frameworks are the answer to most of your sales support issues and many of your personnel issues.
- This definition of creativity that I subscribe to was defined by noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of many books on creativity and happiness, and originator of the term “flow state.” ↩︎
- A model is a view of the world, used to organize complexity. “All models are wrong, but some are useful” is author George Box’s line worth sharing here if you’re stuck on the idea that the sale is not always four linear, discrete conversations. You’re right, but it can be useful to think of it this way. ↩︎